Husband and wife who both have MS share their story

Dating is never easy. But dating when you have a chronic illness can be even harder. After Sarah Kirwan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis — an autoimmune disease that disrupts the central nervous system — in 2011, her health wasn’t her only concern. “You worry that you will never find love, that you will never have a significant other,” she tells Yahoo Life.

“I was just kind of done dating.” But that all changed when Kirwan met Carl Deriso, who was diagnosed with MS in 1996, at an MS self-help group. “When she first walked in, she definitely caught my attention,” Deriso tells Yahoo Life. “I don’t even remember what you were wearing — it was just the energy and your smile.”

“There are two thoughts — there’s one where, ‘Oh, I don’t want to date anybody with MS like me because then who is going to take care of me,’ and then the other thought is, ‘I really want to date someone who has the similar and shared experiences that I have because they know what I’m going through.”

However, Deriso points out that, even though they both have MS, “we are both completely different as far as symptoms, responses, treatment.”

As Kirwan puts it, they “compliment each other very well.” So much so that the couple, who live in Santa Maria, Calif., got married in August 2020. They agree that keeping an open and honest dialogue is key in any relationship but especially when you’re both living with a chronic illness. “If you can talk openly about what you’re feeling, that will really help through some of the tough times,” says Deriso.